By Maduka Nweke
Olumuyiwa Wahab Jimoh, is a member of the Lagos State House of Assembly, representing Apapa Constituency II. He is one of the most vibrant members of the Assembly going by his contributions to debates and issues on the floor of the chamber. He is also one of the youngest among the 40-member assembly.
Jimoh who turned 42 on October 2, 2016, spoke with the press on this milestone, the lessons that life has taught him and his experience in the hallowed chamber of the Lagos House of Assembly. He spoke on why land grabbing will not stop in Nigeria, especially in Lagos State, noting that the land grabbing law recently passed by the Lagos State House of Assembly and assented to by Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, has continued to generate ripples, especially among land owners in the state, with some of them thinking the law has whittled down their power. He spoke on the real issues surrounding the law and why it remains impactful to development in the state.
Law on land grabbing in Lagos State
The land grabbing law is important in so many significant ways. Actually, there is a law that addresses the issue of land grabbing, but it did not put it directly the way this particular law has done. Also, we have the Lagos State Criminal Procedure Law. That one is too general but having noticed that Lagos is a mega city, with a high rate of demand for land and property and the rate at which land appreciates, we discovered that some cartel had decided to form a block in grabbing other people’s lands and that was what prompted the Lagos State House of Assembly to pass a law that directly addresses the issue of land grabbing in the state. The law was well accepted by the people because it addresses the fundamental issues that concern land matters.
There have been series of fracas between either land owners or buyers or people invading other people’s lands, but this law makes it a point of responsibility that if you get land adequately receipted for with all the necessary documentation, it will be difficult for anybody to intrude or invade your land because the issue of land grabbing has always been there from creation. The essence of the law is to regulate the activities of human beings and as I said earlier, there is a law that addresses land matters, but that law is too general because it addresses all other criminal matters in totality. But this very law is specific on land grabbing, which is why it is an offence to invade other people’s land in Lagos.
Enforcement of the law
As a lawmaker, I will tell you it is going to work because it is different from all other laws that have been in existence. It is a collective responsibility since the execution is not coming from the lawmakers. We are to make laws, it is the duty of the police and other law enforcement agents to enforce the law. It is now the collective responsibility of the fourth estate of the realm, third estate of the realm and the second estate of the realm to make sure that the law works. We have identified our problem. It is just like what Karl Marx would say in the 11 thesis of feedback: we have interpreted the world in various ways, what is left is to change it. So the workability of the law lies between you and me and the law enforcement agents.
Yes, they are proportional to what is at stake. If you are caught fighting unnecessarily on another person’s land and eventually the law catches up with you, if you are to pay between four and five million naira, then you would know the magnitude and the pains you feel paying this penalty. In the Nigerian economy today, it is not easy to pay such an amount, so you would be careful if you are not sure it is your land, you will be careful to go into other people’s land or grab other people’s land all in the name of survival of the fittest. The penalty is a deterrent to would-be offenders. So, if the punishment is of that magnitude, you would think twice before you risk it because it is natural of human beings to disobey. You would still find someone that wants to insist that ‘I still want to commit crime, I still want to be disobedient to the law and traditions of any society since it is the nature of human beings’. The essence of the law is to regulate our conducts and our activities so we can live harmoniously within the space.
Weight of land grabbing cartel in Lagos
That is the essence of the law; that some people are forming themselves into a cartel and taking it as a business and we identified that based on petitions coming to the House of Assembly on a daily basis on land grabbing. The law will deal with them. This will check those trying to turn it into a profession because professionalism and professions emanated by ‘departmentalisation’. In Asian traditional time, it was the farmers that produced hoes and cutlasses for their job, but it later became the duty of some people to work on the farm, while some people would cut the grasses and others would make the hoes and cutlasses. The essence of this law is to curb all these challenges so that people would not see it as a profession that ‘if you have a land that you want to grab you would just contact me’ and so on.
The law is a new one, it has not been subjected to test but we are watchful in Lagos and we want to make sure that those who break the law are brought to book. It is the common court that would handle the cases because it is a criminal matter. It can be taken to a high court, it can be heard in a magistrate court apart from customary courts because they don’t have jurisdiction whatsoever on criminal matters.